Chris Craft Wooden Boat History – Smith Ryan Boat Company – 1874 To 1971

January 2, 2013 | By Guest | Filed in: Outdoor Camping.

In a small town in Michigan on the St. Clair River, young Christopher Columbus Smith created his first skiff. This would not be the very last boat he crafted. He created numerous punts or skiffs within the many years to follow. At the age of 20 his status as a master boat builder preceded him. He joined together with his brother Hank and commenced creating boats full time. With the demand for these hunting skiffs grew, Chris and his brother began to increase the manufacturing of them very speedily. It would not be far too long before they formally went into business as the Smith Ryan Boat Company. John “Baldy” Ryan was the financier that made this attainable.

It was with the formation of the Smith Ryan Boat Company that the runabout we acknowledge as a Vintage wooden Chris Craft boat would evolve. Speed became the focus of these boat designs. In 1910, they debuted their boats around New York at numerous boat exhibits. These boats were fast and stunning. It is said that they constantly conquered far more sophisticated European boats in every race.

It wasn’t till the 1920’s, after Ryan dropped from the partnership and the company became Chris Smith and Sons Boat Company, that Chris-Craft boats was brought to the masses. Possibly with inspiration from Henry Ford (who was an owner of a Chris-Craft), Chris Smith began constructing boats assembly line style, tremendously lowering the production expense and time, as a result making them a lot more affordable for the increasing middle class. Before this, they were handmade wooden boats. However, the great Depression was looming large just around the corner. During these lean years, Chris Smith and Sons presented a line of low-end wooden powerboats, in order to remain solvent, and it worked.

In 1930, Chris Smith and Sons Boat Company became Chris-Craft with Jay Smith, Chris’s son at the helm. He would hold this position for almost 31 years. The company would continue to prosper as a non-public company through the 1930’s. In 1939 Chris Smith passes.

During WWII, Chris-Craft, like a lot of industries in the United States, supported the war effort. They were commissioned by the US Navy to create patrol boats, utility launches and rescue vessels. During this time, private boat production was minimal, but nonetheless continued.

Straight out of the war efforts, business boomed in the early 1950’s for Chris-Craft. They presented virtually one hundred sixty diverse designs for all ranges of buyers. They could boast that many of the wealthiest individuals in the United States owned a wooden Chris-Craft. Utilizing such materials as mahogany, teak and brass, even their low-end boats were considered premium quality.

By 1955 Chris-Craft presented its first fiberglass boat. But sadly, this was the beginning of the end for the wooden Chris-Craft boat. In 1971 Chris-Craft made their last wooden boat.

Though Chris-Craft has been acquired and sold a number of times since 1960, every owner has seen fit to continue the famous quality and magnificence of Chris-Craft boats. It is possible to even now own a Chris-Craft today and know that you are sailing in a class of your own with a Chris-Craft. Contact Hagadone, a premier Washington and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, offering Chris Craft boats as well as restoration and wooden boat repair services.

For more information about owning a Chris-Craft boat, contact our Sales Center @ 866.525.3232 or via email You can also visit our website @ www(dot)hagadonemarine(dot)com. For restoration services contact the Resort Boat Shop @ 208-667-5099 or via email

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *